I watched the Rockets get hammered in their own house last night by the Spurs, from start to finish, and really, I still have no idea what happened? How the hell do you show up like that, for an elimination game, in your house, when the other team was without their best player and their Hall of Fame point guard.
Obviously, it’s not that they lost; they were outclassed, outplayed and outcoached by the better team. That’ll happen. It’s how they lost that’s so mindboggling.
By completely laying down, and getting blown out and humiliated in their own building with the entire world watching. And all those raps against Houston that seemingly had been destroyed during the regular season: the ones that said they don’t play dee, Mike D’Antoni isn’t an elite coach and James Harden isn’t a great leader and doesn’t step up in the playoffs, all came rushing back in one horrible night. Because of that horrible effort.
Because Harden wasn’t the only one who didn’t show up last night.
So Mike D’Antoni can talk all he wants about what a great year they had, and how they exceeded all expectations, but that loss is going to stick to them. Forever. And to every last one of them. But especially their MVP candidate, the Beard.
Exactly what the hell was this guy doing last night. I’ll tell you what he wasn’t doing. Competing. Leading. Hell, even trying.
Have you ever seen a would-be MVP candidate less interested in being on the floor in an elimination game than Harden was last night. Or more passive in a big game? The best play their best on the biggest stage. But last night, Harden was at his very worst. One thing to miss shots. Entirely another to not even take them. One thing to play poorly, another to not even bother coming out of the locker room.
And it wasn’t just one horrible night either. This actually goes back to the end of Game 5 when he was 1-6 with four turnovers at the end of the fourth quarter and into overtime. And was blocked from behind by a 39-year old man on a potential game tying shot. And it only got worse last night. Much worse.
Their alleged MVP took just two shots in the first half. Two! And was even worse in the second half, finishing 2-11 with 6 turnovers, six fouls and the Rockets get blown out by 39. They did keep it within 40. So they have that going for them.
Even though this isn’t the first time he has no-showed in the playoffs, he is an MVP candidate, a top five player and the face of that franchise, so I’d love to give him the benefit of the doubt. Love to say there’s something else. That there’s no way a player of that caliber would ever go into the tank in a game that important. That he had to be hurt. Or sick. I’d love to give him that pass. Because there’s no way a guy that good, could be that bad, in a game that important. But he was. And he says he wasn’t hurt. And D’Antoni would only say he had been battling a cold. A cold wouldn’t explain that kind of tank job. Mix in some vitamin C. Or Airborne.
So I have no idea what the hell was Harden’s problem last night, but I do know that’s going to stick to him.
By going right into the tank. I would never wish injury on anyone. But I really hope Harden is hurt, because if he’s not, and has no legitimate excuse for that injury, his rep and cred are going to take a terrific beating.